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November 28, 2007 - November 21, 2007

Monday, August 28, 2006


The Importance of Being Ernesto

Our own Rita interviewed Ernesto.

WEATHER UPDATE. The rising young hurricane Ernesto is all over the news today, but it was our own Rita Cosby who managed to obtain an exclusive interview with him. Here is a transcript:

COSBY: Let me read what people are saying about you, Ernesto.

The National Hurricane Center posted a hurricane watch on Monday for the southern tip of the Florida Peninsula, including the Keys and the Miami area, as Tropical Storm Ernesto drew closer and threatened to strengthen....

At 8 a.m., the fifth named storm of the hurricane season had a top sustained wind speed of 45 mph, down from 75 mph Sunday. He was centered 20 miles west of Guantanamo, Cuba, and about 515 miles southeast of Key West. He was moving northwest at 12 mph.

"He has a good chance to regain hurricane status," said Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center.

Ernesto had been the first hurricane of the Atlantic storm season and was 1 mph above the minimum for a hurricane Sunday, but he weakened as he headed toward Cuba.

The storm battered Haiti and the Dominican Republic with heavy rain and wind on Sunday...

How does this kind of press coverage make you feel?

ERNESTO:  To be honest, Rita, it's a lot of pressure. Maybe you won't understand this, but us storms prefer it when people are rooting against us. It's an underdog thing. When the TV news guys say, "There's a good chance Tropical Storm So-and-So will lose strength over Cuba and then head out to sea," it gets our juices going. We play the music from Rocky. We work out. We get a sense of mission about smashing some rich tourist trap in the U.S. But this is different. When that Max Mayfield says, "He has a good chance to regain hurricane status," I just feel kind of deflated. How would he know? And, frankly, I don't like to be told what to do. Sure, I know, you all want me to knock the crap out of New Orleans again to show up that bastard Bush, but what's it to me? Does anybody care what I want to do?

RITA: Well, it's not just Bush. There's a lot at stake. The way it stands now, a lot of people are going to stop believing in Global Warming if the U.S. doesn't get pasted by about a dozen hurricanes in the next month. Doesn't that give you what you call "a sense of mission"?

ERNESTO: Look. I battered Haiti and the Dominican Republic. You think that's easy? I'm tired and I hurt all over. I can't help it if no rich meteorologists live in Haiti. Why is it all on me?

RITA: I don't want to be cruel, Ernesto, but this is your fifteen minutes of fame. You can sit around feeling sorry for yourself and fade into oblivion, or you can pump some iron, shatter a few cities on the Gulf coast, and be on TV 24/7 for months. Don't you have any ambition? Pride? Pluck?

ERNESTO: Pluck? That's rich. Look at me. You're bigger than I am. I happen to like being a casual 45 mph kind of guy. You like Category 4 atom-smashers, you go do it. You're built for it.

RITA: Are you calling me fat?

ERNESTO: Well... yes. You've got those big arms, and that great big tummy, and those legs. What would you call it except fat?

RITA: I'm big-boned.

ERNESTO: Right.

RITA: I don't think you're being very nice.

ERNESTO: I happen to LIKE fat women.

RITA: I'm not fat. I'm big-boned.

ERNESTO. Whatever. Are you free any night this week?

RITA: Aren't you forgetting something?

ERNESTO: What?

RITA: Don't you already have dates with New Orleans and a few other southern belles this week?

ERNESTO: You starting up with that again? Forget it, then. You're too bossy anyway.

RITA: Does that mean you'll do your duty and take out New Orleans like we need you to?

ERNESTO: Tell you what. You go to New Orleans and wait for me. I'll be along in a jiff.

RITA: I suppose you call that wit.

ERNESTO: No. I call it incentive. Now I really must be going. I've got some weight training to do.

END OF TRANSCRIPT.

There you have it. Make of it what you will, but we think Ernesto is a slacker.




Friday, August 25, 2006


The Friday Follies


TGIF. Before we get to the funny stuff, we need to update you about the hurricane story we covered Wednesday. Apparently, the emergency Global Warming conference in Miami is already starting to work. The unimpeachable Reuters is reporting gleefully that a hurricane just might be a near-term possibility:

"Conditions appear to be favorable for a tropical depression or a tropical storm to form later today," NHC said early Thursday.

The center scheduled an Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft to investigate the system in the afternoon.

All of the major weather models showed the wave entering the Caribbean Sea over the next day or so.

Four models put the storm in the waters south of Cuba near Jamaica within five days. Another model had the storm crossing the Dominican Republic before approaching the Bahamas over the next five days or so.

Through another source, we've also been able to acquire Reuters photos of the weather models who are responsible for all this optimistic predicting.



Would they lie?

We also have a video of the fourth weather model demonstrating (with the help of a red scarf) how major hurricanes can be lurking out there without being easily detected. It's highly educational for us dunces who remain stubbornly ignorant about the many devious stratagems employed by Global Warming to sneak up on us unawares, but it's also pretty NSFW. Maybe that's why (Republican, thin-lipped) conservatives are the ones who are the most skeptical about all the climate change talk. If you can bring yourself to watch it (click on the pic to activate the video), you'll see why models are so convincing to four-eyed meteorologists and environmentalists.

So three cheers for the renascent hurricane season. It's great news, isn't it? With any luck, we'll have another major American city flattened by 130 mph winds within the next week. Keep talking, Al.

Every progressive society needs brave iconoclasts like Gore and so forth to break through to the truths concealed by the sinister powers-that-be. Today's news presents us with another brilliant example of this. Thanks to the oh-so-insightful da Vinci Code, we now have an emerging population of literal iconoclasts to admire and emulate:

Until recently, the 14th century church was a place to enjoy some peace and contemplation.

But now things have radically changed for St Luke's Church in the village of Hodnet, Shropshire, with visitors lured by claims that it is linked to the Holy Grail mystery.

And some, it seems, will go to any lengths to discover the beautiful church's secrets - even if it means taking a hammer and chisel to the walls.

The Reverend Charmian Beech blamed a pair of 'Da Vinci Code-style' treasure hunters for causing thousands of pounds worth of damage as they searched for clues to help them find the Grail.

Courtesy of Reuters, once again, we have a photo showing the damage, which looks to have been worth it if the researchers managed to find any new evidence of the non-divinity of Christ.


A blessing in disguise?

You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs, as they say, and the really positive thing to bear in mind is that people in all walks of life seem to be waking up in unprecedented numbers to the fact that dark secrets have been hidden from them. For example, who wouldn't be cheered by the results of this recent poll?

More than a third of the American public suspects that federal officials assisted in the 9-11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them so the United States could go to war in the Middle East, according to a new Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll...

Widespread resentment and alienation toward the national government appears to be fueling a growing acceptance of conspiracy theories about the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

If you think these numbers are overstated, don't be too sure. We recently did a search looking for on-line documentaries, thinking it would turn up all kinds of interesting educational fare. Instead, we found that about 90 percent of such on-line documentaries are about how the Bush administration engineered the 9/11 attacks. There are so many of these little films, it's no wonder that quite ordinary folks have been whipped up to a frenzy of certainty about the alleged dastardly doings. (Here's just one example of Joe Sixpack passion on the subject, which gets even more inflamed in the Comments section If you looked, you could find thousands of bloggers out there with exactly the same sentiments.)

What's really sad is that there are also a few people on the internet trying to stem the tide with pathetic tools like logic and fact-checking, as if you could stop a hurricane with a calculator.

If you want a real laugh, take a look at this feeble attempt to refute one of the most popular 9/11 conspiracy documentaries. Then take a good long look at the worthies who are behind the conspiracy research. Start  with Part 1 on this page and go here to view the four other segments linked on the lower right-hand side of the page. It will make you proud, especially if you're one of the 33 percent who believe in the conspiracy, of the deeply moral and humanistic character of those who dare to challenge the establishment view of the 9/11 tragedy. People like this are not going to be dissuaded by tedious resorts to reason.



The truth is, the best way to deal with a conspiracy theory is to find an even bigger conspiracy theory that makes all the other conspiracy buffs envious. Ideally, it should be really really big -- so big that it makes even the da Vinci code and the 9/11 stuff look as insignificant as, say, a lie about sex. If it existed, you could call it The Super-Duper Ultimate Conspiracy about the Whole History of Mankind or something like that.

Since this is the Friday Follies, we're pleased to announce that The Super-Duper Ultimate Conspiracy about the Whole History of Mankind does exist. And we found it.



And the book exists too. Read all 35 customer reviews and see how many people think this theory is hot stuff. They couldn't all be wrong about something this important. For example, there's the guy who exclaims, "Boom! Another hit: Bronze Age is a total hoax, because to make bronze you need metallic tin. It is knwon [sic] for a fact that tin was discovered as late as 14 th century!" Wow. Did you know that? We sure didn't. And it's a good thing we had the sense not to do a search like this, because, you know, that could have led to reading something like this, which would complicate things more than a world-class conspiracy theorist needs.

So what we're going to do is start producing our own on-line documentary about The Super-Duper Ultimate Conspiracy about the Whole History of Mankind, and pretty soon, you'll see. The da Vinci fellers and the 9/11 fellers will start to invite us to conferences, and we'll go on the radio, and eventually we'll even reach the "Holy Grail" of conspiracy expertise, Air America.

Er, sorry. It's Friday. We'll probably be all better by Monday. We usually are. Have a nice weekend.




Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Global Warming Experts
Use Desperate Measures
To Fix Hurricane Deficit



PSAYINGS.5A.9. It's getting embarrassing. If all those awful hurricanes last year were caused by Global Warming, then where the hell are this year's hurricanes? Even Neal Boortz is smart enough to spot the problem:

Things aren't quite going the way the global warming crowd predicted.  There have only been three tropical storms thus far... Hurricanes?  Thanks for asking, but there hasn't been one as of yet.  None. Nada.  Zip.  Nunca.  Averaging between 1944 and 2005 we would have seen about 1.5 hurricanes thus far.  Again ... we've seen none. 

According to weatherstreet.com the National Weather Service predicted 12 to 15 named storms by December of this year.  There were 27 last year.  Now it looks like the 12 to 15 prediction may be a bit high.

In fact, it might be a lot high. That's why the world's loudestsmartest 1,000 paranoid climate whackosGlobal Warming experts have scheduled an emergency conference in Miami, Florida, this week to generate enough hot air to catalyzeanalyze hurricanes in the Caribbean and screamexplain to the American people (in words of four lettersone syllable) why the sudden no-hurricanes bullshitphenomenon is another Karl Rove conspiracy absolute proof of Global Warming.

We're sure it'll all work out great. Gore's going to be there. We should have a Category Five underway before the first cocktail hour.He's always insightful orand interesting.

THANKS TO: The Big Girl News Network (scoop, scoop, scoop, scoop) for helping us some with the copy editing. We're new at this. And they know a lot more about hurricanes than we do.





NSFW Day:
What Googlers Want


How to put it... Well, they want to see naked women.

THE WEB PRIMEVAL. For the most part we're pretty well behaved around here. We may be mean and unfair, but we don't use a lot of bad words and we don't use many risque graphics. That's why it interesting to look in occasionally on what the casual googler is seeking when a search brings him accidentally to our site. The subject matter searches tend to be understandable and surprisingly repetitive; that is, a relative handful of subjects account for most of the activity -- they want posts about Cindy Sheehan, Pat Buchanan, Bush-Hitler, Maureen Dowdnuking Mecca, and torture. The final group is the most suspect, since they overlap strongly with the image googlers, who are basically up to no good at all. For example, they want pictures of torture as long as it involves young women bound in ropes and chains. That's not what the post that led them here is about, of course, but how were they to know? It makes us feel sorry for them.

That's why today's post is for all the weird surfers out there. The rest of you shouldn't go to the 'continued' page, because it features a variety of our most popular images, which in aggregate must be considered Not Safe For Work. We're not trying to pander to them but simply to reduce their frustrations, since Google is pretty hit-and-miss about sending them to the correct archive page as opposed to the home page. This should make things easier all round. Call it our good deed for the year.

The rest of you can come back tomorrow when we've returned to our standard prudish, right-wing rectitude. Okay?




Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Midnight to 3 am.

From sober realism to "campy" triviality in one generation.

NO MATTER HOW MUCH. Twelve O'Clock High was first a book, then a movie, then a television series. The dismissal linked above was applied by a site called montrealfood.com to the 60s TV series, though I'm far from sure the context completely explains the insult. I'll return to it later, but first I want to provide some background.

What sent me searching for Twelve O'Clock High was a movie I saw over the weekend. Since it dates to the early 80s, many of you may be familiar with a supposedly serious film called Taps, starring an old George C. Scott and a very young Timothy Bottoms, Tom Cruise, and Sean Penn. The plot, which takes place at a military academy, is almost too flimsy and ridiculous to mention, but the director still contrives to turn the piece into a cheap shot against all things military and particularly against the concepts of duty, honor, and country. Except for a few brief scenes early on when Scott articulates his devotion to the military tradition, the defense of honor is left entirely to a confused young cadet who recites Pattonesque platitudes until he learns the hard way that "nothing is more real than a dead little boy" (if I may paraphrase). When I looked up the film at imdb.com, I was intrigued to read the following reviewer comment:

George C. Scott also turned in a great, believable performance as an old wartime General. However I find it interesting, after seeing this movie over 20 years later, how it's context has changed for me personally. While in '81, the story was perhaps designed to generate sympathy for the General and his plight, I look at his situation today and feel nothing but pity for him, as I would for any Shakespearean tragic hero, who because of their narrow-sightedness, could not see the bigger picture.

I don't think we were supposed to feel much sympathy for Scott's character. I believe the director made a coldly cynical decision to manipulate Scott's advanced age and girth to lampoon him as a spent caricature of  his own portrayal of Patton. But I agree with the commenter that the context has continued to change, even from the comparatively recent decade of the 80s. Today, there are very few civilian Americans left alive who remember that there can be more to a military (or any other kind of) mission than merely not dying.

This is a falsehood. It's what prompted my post on Sunday, and it's what prompted me to turn toward a dramatic subject that I have personal memories of via my father, who served in the Army Air Corps in World War II. I knew from a very early age the premise of the 1949 movie starring Gregory Peck as the commander of a B17 bomber group based in England. I knew that the Eighth Air Force flew the first ever daylight bombing raids from Britain to Germany and lost 40,000 aviators, equivalent to all the Americans killed in action in the Pacific Theater of World War II. It was their heroism that ultimately brought Germany's manufacturing capacity to its knees and crippled the great Nazi war machine. That's what the movie is about -- how and why officers and men continued doing their duty in the face of appalling casualties day after day, long before there was any evidence they would succeed.

It's a truism that ground troops have it much harder physically than airmen, but the comparative luxury of returning each night to civilized digs, decent food, and drinks at the base also carries a cruel irony. Going off to war is something you have to do all over again every day or two -- leave the comforts of home for several hours of sheer terror. Then you return to a place that is essentially unchanged, except that some or many of last night's co-revelers are gone forever. True, the terror is always there, but so is some version of the civilian perspective that war is something which happens in another place, so far away that it seems continuously unreal and impossible to comprehend. No mud, cold, or hunger to distract you. For anyone in such an on-again, off-again purgatory, there can come a bright beautiful morning when "going off to war" again, today, is a sudden hammer that breaks you without warning. This is the emotional reality captured in the 1949 production.

Here's what representative imdb.com commenters had to say about Twelve O'Clock High.

***

If you have ever pondered what the real meaning of over-used words like 'loyalty' and 'devotion' mean then this film is for you. The unfettered treatment of these hard-to-pin-down ideals is what makes it one of the few really great war films...

***

(I)ndisputably the greatest WWII film ever..  There are no weaknesses in this movie. The screenplay is perfect, rooted as it is in the historical reality of the U.S.'s attempt to prove the superiority of Daylight Precision Bombing over the Brits favored strategy of night bombing. The terrible human pressures it placed on young American pilots AND their leaders has never been so well-portrayed on film... The usage of actual WWII bombing footage adds to the sense of reality. The psychological drama - what "maximum effort" does to people - is at the core of the story and supercedes the mere military aspect...  To hell with the flashy flamboyance of Citizen Kane; I would have to give 12 O'Clock High a better shot at being "the best movie ever made."

***

No gungho up and at 'em men. No false heroics. A great war film, but also an anti-war film of great intensity. Just ordinary men (and boys) doing the job they knew they had got to do. Greg Peck magnificent as the general forced to stiffen the morale of his bomber group, and who he himself eventually cracks under the strain.

***

The picture brings back the memories of excitement, terror and relief. Its a picture that the authors bring out. I knew the commanding officer portrayed by Gregory Peck, a Colonel Frank Armstrong, a replacement for Col. Overacker. Gregory Peck was a BG... We were first division originally sent to England to be transferred to North Africa. The 918 Bomb Group in the picture is 3 times 306 = 918 thats how they identified them. We had 87% casualty rate; 287 of us flew to England on Oct 21 1942, 87 survived, and [we] are passing away rapidly now. I was 19 as a bombardier-navigator, flew two tours; the second as a pilot. The picture is my ideal. I have three copies of it and view it whenever I feel depressed. Thanks for my connection of the past. I'm 78 and need a boost ever since I gave up drinking and smoking.
-- Horace Corigliano      

***

The last two comments are interesting to read side by side. One viewer sees it as an anti-war film. A veteran of the Eighth Air Force, however, sees it as a confirmation of the value of his service, despite its terrible costs. The latter is close to my own father's perspective on his service. He had the years of nightmares that are today characterized as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but he accepted them as a by-product of his service and got over them, if not the constant ringing in his ears. He didn't boast about his time in the war, but he never forgot it, or the friends he lost, or the shame he ascribed to those who had failed to serve in their country's hour of direst need. Pro-war, anti-war, the terms were irrelevant to his experience. Some wars have to be fought, and if you fight one, it's necessary to win it. He understood and approved the fine words of MacArthur's speech at West Point, but like most army pilots, he despised Patton's bluster and saw no glory of any kind in war. He, like the overwhelming majority of WWII vets, was of a breed we may very soon need plenty of, devout civilians who put on the uniform to get a nasty job done.

I saw the television version of Twelve O'Clock High long before I saw the movie, and I can remember, particularly in the first year, 1964, that we all watched it together as a family, my dad by turns technically critical and approving of its ambiance, me carried wholly into another, more urgent time of my parents' lives. The show declined a bit in the second year, when the Frank Savage character was shot down in the first episode to make way for a more popular lead actor than Robert Lansing. The plots grew more superficial, too often concerned with boy-girl romance, and there were too many happy endings. But we still watched, because in the memories of my family and many others, men were still plunging from the skies over Europe in scarcely believable thousands. In my head, I suppose, they've never stopped. The young men who will never return still bounce out to the flight line and take to the air of eternity, just like Frank Savage and Joe Gallagher and Horace Corigliano.

And now, the old drama is considered camp. What part, I wonder? Just the show biz compromises of seasons two and three? The prospect of a lowly TV series based on an excellent movie (much rarer then than today)? Or is it, as I fear, something deeper than that? Is it, in fact, the whole premise that's campy for members of all the generations who didn't even have parents for whom the setting had meaning? Are they now so sophisticated in their stateless loyalty to self that even the thought of an entire population of men willing to die for their country, willing to die rather than be thought not up to it, is a hokey, kitschy, absurdist joke?

If so, I'm sorry for them. And sorrier still for their children and grandchildren. F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "In the dark night of the soul, it's always three o'clock in the morning." Not that far from twelve o'clock, you think? Think again.




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